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3 posts categorized "Dana Kimmelman"

12/15/2010

Wait, a Week? Seriously?

Alas, my friends, it's true- we now have a mere week left in our beautiful city of light. Everyone is back from their whirlwind weekends exploring Europe and beyond, and we're all hunkered down for final exams, papers, and presentations... unless you've found a way to procrastinate. If you haven't, here's a hint: write a blog entry! It's a win-win situation!

But seriously folks. As the semester draws to an end, the winter sun fighting bravely to warm the sandy beaches where we once siesta'd entire afternoons away, we inevitably begin heave great sighs and generally look wistful  as we reflect back on the people we've met and the things that we've lea-- Okay, too cheesy. You know where this is going. We've had the time of our lives here, experienced extreme highs and lows, learned two new languages (Spanish proper as well as our own special brand of Spanglish), and frankly, it's starting to feel like maybe just one more week would make us happy. It's only ending one week too soon. We've all got things waiting for us at home, but still-- just a few more days of navigating the streets by the position of the sea, wearing out our camera batteries trying to capture the beauty of the sunset from the castillo, studying at fnac (okay, maybe we won't miss that part), and just generally reveling in the splendor that is Alicante.

But it's time to deal with it and begin to pack, much to the chagrin of our bocadillo-wielding Madres and much to the delight of our poor provincial amigos Americanos. Time to make sure we've bought presents for everyone, nice enough to be thoughtful but not nice enough to instill jealousy in anyone who needed to be cut from the list. Time to count how many pairs of socks, if any, we have left to our name.

I can tell you one thing about the end of something this great-- that it's Family I'll remember most. The family that taught me not only how to speak Spanish, but how to be Spanish, and also the family formed by my fellow strangers in a strange land, the Context crew that shall never be bested. You know who you are.

Don't cry for me Alicante... The truth is I'll never leave you.... etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. Sad to leave, it's been great, now i'm all sad.... thanks a lot study abroad blog.

¡Hasta luego!

11/10/2010

Tareas and Traveling

We’re waist-deep in the semester; that means two things: cramming for mid-terms and cramming essentials into a backpack that will hopefully pass RyanAir’s carry-on measuring test.

For most people in the program, this month has been busy, to say the least. Midterms, and presentations are behind us or coming up soon, while final papers loom overhead. It’s easy to forget that we’re at school when every weekend is a new adventure, but reality came crashing down on me when I had to outline a 12 page essay on scraps of paper on the plane home from the Canary Islands…

IMG_3575

One thing that has been great about traveling is coming back and exchanging stories with everyone else who has been away from Alicante, as well as those who stick around and hold down the fort. As excited as I am about all the places I’m going, lately I’ve been missing the relaxation of weekends in Alicante, the familiarity of the city at night, the Sundays at el campo with my host family… there’s a balance to be maintained between adventure and building relationships.

Needless to say, I’m a bit concerned about getting everything done, but I’m willing to endure a little stress if it means taking advantage of every opportunity during my time in Europe. To give you an idea of what’s ahead:

Places left to go:
Paris | London | Valencia | Amsterdam

Work left to complete:
Camino class- Term Paper | Final Exam
Literature class- Term paper | class project | Final Exam
Spanish class- Oral presentation | Reading comprehension | smallish exam(s) | Final Exam

… you do the math.

 

10/18/2010

Camino? More like Cami-YES

So here in españa, I am taking a course all about the Camino de Santiago, which is a Catholic pilgrimage route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in the Northwest corner of Spain. For the class, we got to actually complete the camino ourselves, walking more than 110 km from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela (that’s 70 miles for you Yankees) with just our backpacks.

The Atheist in me cringed at the idea of making this great trek to a gaudy Cathedral honoring a saint who was supposedly resurrected to slaughter Arabs by the thousands in the historic battle of Clavijo. That is, by the way, what he is most celebrated for– winning Spain back for the Spanish. There are depictions of St. James Matamoros (Moor-Killer, literally) in churches across the country, and for this figure almost a quarter of a million people wear down their feet each year, hoping to get the chance to hug his holy likeness and have their sins erased.

St. James Matamoros

However, the huge cultural significance of the pilgrimage and the lure of exploring northern Spain’s countryside and architecture won me over and I transferred out of an almost equally tempting class on Politics and Identity in Spain (incidentally, it turns out that I didn’t have to do that… details are irrelevant). So I packed my bags, broke in my new hiking boots, and prepared to make the camino.

As with most things in life, my experience matched almost none of my expectations. I had no idea how much I had missed the lush greenery of my home in the U.S. until I was walking through tunnels of trees covered in ivy, the morning mist just beginning to clear. I expected to get a lot of good, productive thinking done– about my academic plans, about my relationships, about my family– but what I was able to do was clear my mind completely, to walk and to not think at all. Much of the peacefulness of the journey came not from the more social aspect of the walk itself, but in the hours after we had reached our destination for the day, wandering the small towns as the sun set and just being quiet.

 Socks

One expectation that unfortunately (or not) was met was that getting to Santiago and beholding the great Cathedral of St. James was my least favorite part of the trip. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it by any means, it just didn’t compare to the days of walking with purpose through fields and forests and tiny villages. The sudden bustling town, combined with the knowledge that the journey was over cast a bit of a shadow over my arrival… not to mention my now almost non-functional right knee. The cathedral was very beautiful, and we met interesting people of all flavors along the way.

Churchiepoo

Ultimately, I said farewell to Santiago fondly; the journey was long but exactly the fall vacation I needed- a time for friends, the beauty of nature, and learning to appreciate a decent meal. It was a unique experience, and while many of my friends went to other exotic places in europe in planes, trains, and taxicabs, I wouldn’t have traded this trip for any other.

Sillhouette